cc licensed flickr photo shared by voss

You would think in an advanced electronic era that has brought us tools to broadcast our breakfast dilemmas and make our rock and roll dreams come alive that we might perhaps… maybe… improve the collection of information via @$#%#ing paper forms.

There is no excuse for wasting my time with bad forms.

I am putting my paw down on these offenses:

  1. Badly Designed Paper Forms My handwriting is already bad enough for me to masquerade as an MD, but forms that do not allow appropriate space, ones that have me repeat information already entered, or request information hardly relevant is a huge waste. My time is wasted chicken scratching in tiny boxes and some poor staff person’s time is wasted trying to interpret what I wrote and re-enter it into some computer system.
  2. Fax Me That Electronic Form I find alot of forms sent by email or downloaded form web sites that require me to…. print them out (waste paper), fill them out by hand (see #1 above), and then fax them or mail them back in (more waste). If you send it to me digitally, let me return it digitally (see below).
  3. A Word Document With Lines for Items is Not a Form. I still get a lot of requests for information that come in the form of a Word document that someone labored to make look pretty with lines for me to…. write in by hand (see #2). If I even try to edit the form in Word, it becomes a jumbled mess almost useless as I replace those single entered underlines. I don;t want to edit your document, I want to type in information. There is a virtually unknown feature in MS Word that allows you to make documents act like forms; e.g. I can only edit in areas the author defines. I learned how to do this in 2002! And have all the details on how to do this rusting away in the Maricopa Learning eXchange http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/mlx/slip.php?item=383.What I want to do is type in the info you need and then be able to return the document by email / file sharing etc. This can be done without wasting a shred of paper or touching a fax machine. This can be done today.
  4. Got PDF? If you are serious about collecting information in a structured form, for *******’s sake, get a copy of Acrobat Pro, and generate a PDF with editable form fields. It’s not that hard; the end user (me) can do this with the free Acrobat Reader, and you get back forms in an exact format was you design.
  5. Skip the document, go web Depending on the nature of the information collected, just create a web form to collect it- be it any number of free tools or even the dead easy Google Forms

I have zero expectation much will change, so I am keeping my printer loaded with paper and the fax machine on standby for the next stupid form I am asked to fill out.

The post "Let’s Put an End to Stupid Forms" was originally rescued from the bottom of a stangant pond at CogDogBlog (http://cogdogblog.com/2009/09/stupid-forms/) on September 15, 2009.

5 Comments

  • Ryan Collins ryancollins.org/wp

    OpenOffice.org will create editable PDF forms that are saveable, no Acrobat Pro required!

    And when forms ask for information I’ve already written, I just write in, “see previous page”. :-)

  • Brick & Mortar Blended » Best Technology Rant of the Week misterv.net/archives/275

    […] Cog Dog Blog’s very appropriate question: Why the heck are we using terrible paper forms? […]

  • Jotex

    Couldn’t agree with you more. We CAN save trees if we would only try. Not to mention time, as you say, re-formatting someone else’s .pdf text…. [have used deskUNPDF, but it sometimes loses formatting, and I still lose time (grrrrrrrrr). Web-based sounds like the best solution to me!

  • Susan WB

    Honestly, I don’t get why people don’t know how to make forms in Word, either. It’s not hard! And it’s dead useful – we use them all the time in my workplace for accounting and HR forms and the like. No tree killing required. Download form. Complete form fields. Save as. Send as attachment to…

    And if you need to tally responses, web form services like http://www.formsite.com can handle that too – and give you data in graphical format, compiled however you like.

    Are we in the 21st Century or what?

  • CogDogBlog » Suffer Me No Inefficiency cogdogblog.com/2009/11/09/no-inefficiency

    […] I’ve complained before about the continual irony of someone emailing you a form to fill as a PDF file, requesting me to complete them, and FAX them back. This requires me to waste my time, printing a digital document to paper (waste of resources), hand write in my information (most likely marginally legible), return it via the emerging technology of 1981 (Fax machine), where some poor sucker on the other end has to decipher a now badly printed document (analog), and manually retype that information into a computer screen (return to digital). […]

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